Category Music

Jimmy Carter (Our First) Rock & Roll President

In a 2018 interview that opens the recently released documentary, “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President,” the now 96-year-old ex-POTUS places a vinyl record on a small turntable at his home in Plains, Georgia. The sight of a record, with the familiar red (“Columbia”) inner circle that tells you the album information, comes as almost a shock, a sudden time-warpy escort into a warm bath of nostalgia for people of a certain age.

And then Carter, with that trademark grin of a genuinely good and happy man, true Christian to his bones, settles into a chair and nods his head in approval as he remarks, “All right! Sounds familiar.” 

The sounds we hear with him are the opening guitar strums of Bob Dylan before he begins, “Heyyyy, Mr. Tambourine Man…”

A hilarious anecdote in this grin-inducing documentary involves bad boy gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson’s visit to the White House, a kind of refr...

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A Happy New Year Gift From Antonin Dvořák


It has become tradition
in this space to offer up a musical selection that fits the tenor of this day. Three years ago (or was it 300?) we highlighted  the 4th Movement to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as a way of ushering in the New Year with, shall we say, a bang, not a whimper. (Apologies to T.S. Eliot on that line!)

So today, looking forward to a presidential inauguration, an end to this damn pandemic (let us pray in the manner we see fit…), and just, by golly, another year in which we are still breathing and able to reach out to our fellow human beings traveling along with us on this not-so-long and vexing, though still, let us not forget, often joyous road, I figured, “How about another scintillating 4th movement of an orchestral classic?!” 

And just like that, here appeared Mr...

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Brilliant Songs #18: “The Parting Glass” (Celtic Traditional)

We are awash in babies here in our little corner of Durham, the bulk of them hovering, for this precious and brief stage, around the pre-walking and just-walking ages of 10 to 12 months or so. Hoisting themselves up by the side of their wagons or with a parent’s extended fingers, bouncy and jovial, taking a halting drunken step or two before plopping down on their diapered tushes.

Working to regain their footing as we come around the corner with our dog at the end of the leash, they stand and point and break into wide grins while uttering little “Uh, ooh, uh-uh-uh” sounds, all bouncedy-bounce, immensely pleased with the sheer fact of living and watching and exploring their ever-expanding world.

Portraits of innocence and pure being, sharing, in some ways, more in common with their peers of other species, be they lamb or kitten, puppy or chimp, than with the elders of their own, nicked and coarsened as thos...

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Brilliant Songs #17: Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane, Opus 50”

Some music just grabs us as soon as the first sound waves they generate waft through the air on a remarkable (and nearly instantaneous) journey through our ear and nervous system. As those waves turn into electrical impulses that reach our brain, they have been known to cause visceral reactions that often include a primitive language response along the lines of “Mmmhhh” or “OhOhOh…”

The 17th selection in this semi-regular series of “Brilliant Songs” fits into that category like few other musical pieces.

‘Pavane’ continues to thrive as a standard part of the concert repertoire some 133 years after its debut for the most excellent reason that it engages human emotion from first notes to last.

“Pavane, Opus 50,” by French composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), launches from its first violin pluckings (called “pizzicato,” a word I have always loved to say), soon joined by flutes into a dreamy melancholy so lush ...

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Brilliant Songs #16: Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang ‘Amazing Grace'”

We are a nation rent asunder, in a horrible mess, increasingly hard and loud at each other and dismissed—or worse: pitied—by our former allies, while our enemies busy themselves with furthering the work of our Mad King in undermining the very foundations of our democracy. Millions of us are voting frantically, in fear and trembling that it won’t be counted, will be challenged, hidden away or burned while armies of lawyers descend on a newly stolen Supreme Court with petitions to sow yet more chaos and perpetuate the reign of an obviously demented Divider-in-Chief.

What kind of man summons his followers to tightly packed worship rallies that expose them to a potentially deadly virus, all the while denying its very existence and ridiculing those who seek to keep us safe us from it? One can’t help but feel we are not so much approaching but are now fully submerged in lunacy under the most wreckless man ...

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